In 2018, the National Cancer Institute reported 18.1 million new cancer diagnoses worldwide. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is never easy. But no matter where you are on your cancer journey, there are people, resources and teams of health care professionals ready to help you. Cancer treatment is not just treating the malignant components of your diagnosis, but also tending to your physical and mental health needs.
When it comes to caring for breast cancer patients, technology and a human touch are equally important. At Inspira, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) software is helping care teams give patients the best of both worlds.
What is AI?
Artificial intelligence refers to software that can organize patient information, analyze a diagnosis through a review of millions of pages of existing cancer research data and make sure all members of the care team have the information they need. This can help care teams know about a patient’s diagnosis faster, so they can reach out to them sooner. It can help simplify care plans and even alert users to the potential of other complications sooner. Providers can spend less time reading or documenting reports and more time collaborating with other team members and communicating with patients. All of which can lead to a better patient experience.
Inspira offers comprehensive diagnosis and medical, surgical and radiation treatment for virtually all types of breast cancer. The AI software in use at Inspira identifies patients with a positive diagnosis as soon as the pathology report is available. The cancer care team can then move quickly to follow up with patients, address their questions and help reduce the stress they may be feeling after a diagnosis and in the time leading up to their next appointment.
Nandini Kulkarni, M.D., is a fellowship-trained surgical oncologist and medical director of Surgical Oncology at Inspira. “More information is always better,” she said. “Our navigators and other team members always make that human connection with patients as soon as we can. But there are many scenarios to consider with each of our patients. AI software can help put more information at the fingertips of the entire care team. That means we may know more about the patient and their condition or diagnosis before we even see them or talk to them for the first time. We then can reach out to patients to schedule visits or begin appropriate follow-up quickly, so they know they are not alone in facing their diagnosis.”
A Little Extra “TLC”
Lauren Baldwin, oncology manager at Inspira, said that getting patients the care they need faster is key. “AI technology can be extremely helpful,” she said. “I can see the results of a patient’s tests and review their history before I even know that patient. That lets me check with the primary care provider or whoever ordered the test to make sure they have been updated and find out if I can follow up with the patient. Then we can begin putting a care plan into place or answer questions immediately. With one new patient recently, we saw her test results, coordinated next steps with her physician, and got her into to see a breast surgeon the same week.”
Dave Johnson, vice president of Innovation, said that Inspira is looking at many ways to use AI to improve the patient experience throughout the network. “There is no question that AI can help enhance care,” he said. “By putting more information, with real-world context, into the hands of our providers, we can help the members of the care team collaborate and spend more time where they want to be – face to face with their patients.”
Oncology nurse navigator Barbie DiMatteo agreed that one of the best things about the AI software is not necessarily about technology at all. “Sometimes we can reach out to a patient who we haven’t even met yet or one who is unsure or hesitant about taking the next step. Sometimes just a phone call from us to help with the process may calm them and make them feel more included in their own care. Often, that little extra TLC means a great deal to them.”